• State of the Game – August 2013

    by  • August 27, 2013 • Hobyah Press, State of the Game, Wyldlands

    A Wicht, one of the many uninvited dead of the Wyldlands.

    A Wicht, one of the many uninvited dead of the Wyldlands.

    Well, it’s STILL hot up here in the north of England, so given that my last SotG was at the end of July, I guess that means we actually had a summer. There’s a first for a few years! So what have we been up to?

    James has been working on some fantastic new artwork as you can see. Side-by-side with that I’ve been working on writing up our more mythological bestiary which is based very much around the sort of faerie lore, mythology and anthropology written about by the likes of Katharine Briggs. We’ve put our own spin on a lot of the faeries, from enhancing the macabre and darker side of many of the dark fey and Unseelie Court to adding in new creatures such as the undead Restless; spectres and living dead cursed to walk the mortal world until such time as someone can free their spirit to pass over to the Otherworld.

    On top of this little lot, I started working on basic layout and formatting of certain near-finished elements of the rulebook. The main one here was the start of putting together the attack tables for the table-top rules as James has also been working through full-colour illustrations of each of the weapons. We’ve hacked out about a 3rd of the weapons in the game purely on the basis that they’re contextually wrong for a game set in Iron Age Britain. What’s left is a little heavy on the one-handed edged side but, heck, it would be (trust us, we know an archaeologist!) As well as one-handed weapons there is a limited mix of ranged weapons, focusing on spears and bows and a number of nice two-handed weapons such as the Horse Axe, favoured weapon of many of the horse-folk.

    If that sounded a little gun-porn it was; but Wyldlands features quite a small set of weapons compared to many RPGs, in some ways because it is a hybrid LARP and table-top system but primarily because there just wasn’t that much variety when it came to removing your foe’s limb from their body back in 150 BCE. That aside, this brings me on to the main subject of this blog post which is how our combat play-testing has progressed and to talk a little about our combat mechanics. Learning from my last State of the Game blog entry, I’ll do my best to split this into a couple of posts; to begin with I’ll discuss some of our design decisions and what we’ve done to bring live-action combat to the table-top. In the next post, I’ll talk in more detail about the mechanics.

    We’re Crunchy, Simulationist, Gritty and Narrative!

    Okay, we’re a little bit of all-of-the-above and this is something that I’m pleased has come about as a result of polishing and refining the table-top combat system. So why each of the above? Well, I’m sure plenty will disagree with my personal interpretation of these oft-cited RPG definitions but I’ll do my best…

    Crunchy! Mmm. Simulationist! Nom.

    The live-action rules use a quite a complex damage-call mechanic; each weapon has a base damage call (for example, a Great Sword calls an “eight”) and this increases with certain skills such as proficiencies, masteries with weapon types and specialisations in the weapon of choice. Combine that with damage type modifiers (“flaming”) and conditions (“dazed”) and you end up with a pretty crunchy LARP combat system. We worked on, revised and polished the LARP system over a period of two years and whilst I’ll be the first to admit it’s not to everyone’s taste, it works.

    Enter table-top Wyldlands. We wanted a system that mirrored our LARP damage call system. More on the exact crunch later but in short, we adapted all the things we loved as long-time players of detailed, simulationist RPGs and toned them down. Gone are the messy critical tables. Gone are the attack tables running from 25-150. What we have adapted is the idea that attacks by different weapons have different effects on different armours and we’ve tied that into our Combat Feats mechanic (more on that below and in the next blog post). Both the live-action and table-top systems take this sort of simulationist mechanic into account; sure, you’ll be less-likely to hit someone dodging around in furs if you’re swinging a heavy two-handed blade but if you do, it’s going to hurt. Similarly, you can be chipping away at someone in a mix of chain and plate but you’re not going to be seeing limbs coming off without a good, solid blow in the right spot. Crunchy! Simulationist!

    Where we think we’ve managed to avoid too much crunch is in the fact that most of the combat resolution in a LARP battle occurs during the post-fight time out (sorry, referees!) and in terms of table-top? Well, whether you hit, what you hit and how much damage you do is down to a single dice pool roll of d6s. Play-tests so far have shown that after a little explanation and practice with the combat rules, it’s around 10 seconds to resolve all of the above.

    Gritty AND Narrative?

    Okay, this is where I’m definitely abusing the definition of GNS Theory but as a former English student, narrative means something different to me. Out of interest, I just checked on Wikipedia’s definition of Narrative:

    A narrative (or story) is any account of connected events, presented to a reader or listener in a sequence of written or spoken words, or in a sequence of (moving) pictures.

    I’m good with that 🙂

    So how is Wyldlands both Gritty and Narrative? When revising the combat rules for table-top Wyldlands, it struck us that the cool things that happen when you LARP are always best described after the event. Down the pub after a day’s live-action game or winding down, even in-character at the end of the day. You remember those epic moments in a battle where your shield just happened to be in the right place at the right time to stop that arrow whilst reversing your sword and plunging into the chest of your enemy. It might…not quite…have played out like that in reality but by Lugh’s Spear, it certainly plays out in your head like that! And. That’s. Cool.

    So we took that idea and played around with it for a while. What we have now is a narrative spin on the idea of dramatic combat for the table-top rules that mirrors that coolness of live-action games. It’s the table-top equivalent of seeing Spartacus gut two heavily-armed Romans or Jon Snow show off his skills with a blade. The mechanic requires the player to describe their actions, which vary from a basic feat such as a knock-down to a skilled one such as eviscerating their foe. The game provides suggestions and examples, including mechanics which tactically exploit the conditions in the game (dazed, off-balance, etc) and ultimately reward player creativity by allow their character to gather Momentum and pull off the sort of Heroic Feats that would rival those of Cuchulainn!

    I’ll discuss mechanics of combat in our Iron Age world in the next blog post, hopefully some time this week. Until then:

    The residence of Scathach was on an island, and this island was approached by a difficult bridge only: it had two low ends and the midspace high, and whenever anybody leaped on one end of it, the other head would lift itself up and throw him on his back. Cuchulainn was thrown three times. Then his distortion came upon him, and, gathering himself, he jumped on the head of the bridge, and made the hero’s salmon-leap, so that he landed on the middle of it; and the other head of the bridge had not fully raised itself up when he reached it, and threw himself from it, and was on the ground of the island.